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Working Less and Saving More

September 2, 2015 | by Dr. Jacob L. Freedman

A psychiatrist offers insights into prioritizing family life this Rosh Hashanah.

Every day in my office people tell me all sorts of interesting things that they wouldn’t normally say anywhere else. There are some things that I’ve become accustomed to hearing from people. One common theme around the New Year – whether that’s January 1st for some folks or Rosh Hashanah for others – is that people want to talk about devoting more time to what’s important in their lives.

Everyone wants to be there for their family and is resolute in saying this time and time again. And yet for many people, it’s paradoxically too difficult to disconnect from email in order to watch their daughter’s ballet recital or to shed their cell phone to enjoy their son’s little league game. Even worse, there are others who are too busy flying back and forth for business meetings to tuck their kids into bed even once a week. For these folks my advice is always the same: it’s time to look at the difference between what you’re saying and what you’re doing. What you’re saying is that you love your family and what you’re doing is loving your job.

What you’re saying is that you love your family and what you’re doing is loving your job.

There is a famous parable that I overheard in the halls of Yeshiva Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem over a decade ago. A business executive finally got the time to take his son on a fishing trip after being promoted to CEO and flew off to a resort in Mexico. The newly-crowned CEO was very excited to have the long weekend to leave his concerns back at the skyscraper in Manhattan. While fishing with his son off the docks, he happened to see a young local who was having great success in reeling in many big fish. Being such a savvy businessman, he decided to offer some unsolicited advice to the local.

“As such a talented fisherman, you should start saving the money you make on each day’s catch.” The local shrugged. “You could eventually buy a boat with all the money you save,” offered the CEO. The local shrugged again. “I know it sounds silly, but if you could get a boat then you could probably catch even more fish than you already do off of the docks.” The local shrugged a third time. “I know you might not be interested now, but eventually you could buy a bigger boat and hire other young guys to work for you.”

The local couldn’t have been less interested but it didn’t stop the CEO, “You know my friend, you could eventually have an armada of fishing boats and if you played your cards right you could let other people fish for you while you just managed the business side of things from a nice air-conditioned office.”

The local reeled in another fish and continued to ignore the CEO.

“And then you’d have it made,” said the CEO who couldn’t understand why the local man wasn’t more interested in this conversation. Finally the CEO got frustrated enough and yelled, “Don’t you understand! If you run a good business and save your money, when you get promoted to CEO you’ll finally get to leave the office once a year for a long weekend to be with your son for the first time in a month and go on the fishing trip to Mexico you’ve been promising him!”

The local smiled and walked home with his daily haul.

People would be happier if they could spend less time in the office and more time with their family; work less moonlighting shifts and enjoy more family dinners; have less nighttime conference calls and give more piggyback rides.

When discussing these choices, everyone responds the same in that they’d pay a fortune to have more time with their loved ones and would never sell their family time for a bigger paycheck. The problem is that not everyone’s actions support their words.

It’s hard to cut back on hours spent at the office cold turkey. Perhaps a realistic resolution for this Rosh Hashanah could be to try and leave the office a bit early to make it home in time for family dinner. And for the advanced class, anyone up for it can try and commit to not checking their email until the kids are asleep.


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